Monday, 7 February 2011

Cook *all* the things!

At the moment I find myself Cutting Back On Spending, apart from the Orla Kiely kitchen storage jars I have just ordered (and my mother shamed me! She said, ‘how can a storage jar possibly cost that much money!?’ – I am comforting myself with the idea that it would have cost us quite a bit more if I had not decorated the kitchen myself and now I am exhausted and have paint in my eye, chiz chiz. But yes I do feel bad! On the other hand, look at those patterns! Handmade in Portugal!). Anyway, I am Cutting Back and I find myself making good use, like a culinary Womble, of the things that I find in the Veg Box. And I have had a realisation. And I am afraid it must be shared.
Poor thing struggling through the undergrowth (not my garden I hasten to add). But look! It's Spring!
The way to make cooking hard is this: have a society where it isn’t expected that people cook from scratch every day, and so sell them lots of things which bear some resemblance to actual food, and pretend to be just as good as actual food, but which taste rubbish. And then put on cookery programmes either where people make cooking look as if it is something you just would not want to do – like Heston Blumenthal, where his head might look like a potato but none of his food does – or Nigella, where all the ingredients are expensive and are only used in one dish so every meal is costing you £20.
Pussy Willows! See! Spring! Hooray!
And, the way to make cooking easy, actually, and however counter-intuitive this sounds, is to cook, from scratch, for every meal, and cook only seasonal things. Because then not only do you have leftovers, but your choice of what to eat is vastly reduced. And this is a wonderful thing. Because normally, in supermarkets, you are presented with an infinite choice of foods, none of which is really much good, whereas if you eat seasonally (either with your trusty veg box or with your own veg if you are clever!) you have very little choice, but it does taste of something (you may not feel like this when you have had Swede in your box for the fifth week running, but, bear with me). And it is always much better, and more freeing, to have some kind of boundary round any kind of creative endeavour, and so I would much rather be in the position of thinking, what shall I cook with this aubergine from the veg box/ have to go with the leftover stew from Saturday, rather than thinking, what shall I cook at all. Because the first position leads to homecooked delicious new ideas, the second to despair and a meltdown in Marks and Spencer.

Now I have made myself sound like a food snob and a princess and you are hating me, I am going to make it even worse and tell you what I really think. I am still doing some of my shopping at Tesco, I will be honest, because it is difficult to shop conveniently for some things elsewhere (I am slowly chipping away, but, it is going to be a while yet!). So, upcoming hypocrisy acknowledged and apologised for. However, now I am cooking everything from scratch – which is actually (you might not believe me on this one, and I myself would not have believed me a year ago, but, it is true!) no more trouble than buying things ready made – I walk round Tesco and I look at some things and I think, how can people eat this. There, I said it. Why are we eating it? The quality is dreadful. Why do we put up with such terrible quality from the big supermarkets? Things that look like food, and taste a bit like what they are supposed to taste of, but, a bowdlerised, dumbed-down, watery version. I am tempted to go off into a great big digression about the Evils For Society of people as consumers only ever being offered things that are unsatisfying and unreal and make you hungrier even as you get fuller, but instead I am going to just give you comparisons here of things where the difference is so egregious I cannot understand why we are not storming supermarket headquarters and saying in a diffident British way, look, this is a bit rubbish. We wondered if perhaps you might be able to divert some of your profits to, ooo we don’t know, making things very slightly better quality. No? Too much trouble? Oh ok then, we understand. Enjoy your dividends!
Mordor. Do you see the Eye of Sauron? I do. I see it
1/ Compare a ready-made sandwich bought from any supermarket with one you have made yourself, using fresh homemade bread, and butter. In particular, imagine a homemade sandwich made of fresh bread, butter, sharp cheddar and thick-sliced beetroot still warm from the oven. No? Prefer an Asda Egg Mayonnaise?

2/  Compare oven chips to chips you have cut up yourself and oven roasted.

3/ Compare a fruit scone you have bought, which will do that awful sticking-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth and drying-your-tongue thing, with one you have just made, fresh from the oven.

What do you think?

OK, off to practice what I preach and make an omelette for dinner. With veg from the veg box! Go me! Although I have to confess to you that I have no idea what to do with my pumpkin :-(.


The Gingerbread Lady said...

Oh! Emm! Gee! When we bought our house we found TWO COMPLETE sets of retro dinnerware - authentic seventies-style stuff. I am going to put up pictures on my blog ESPECIALLY for you and if you like the Orla Kiely stuff, you will spit with jealousy!

PS: Pumpkin soup with freshly-ground pepper and fresh cream. Oh, grief, I drooled on the keyboard.

Maria S said...

I couldn't agree more! You're absolutely right on everything - apart from the 'pussy willow'. Them there things are hazel catkins, not pussy willow... But apart from that very small thing, I'm with you all the way!

Moomin Mamma said...

Agree, agree, agree!
I admit I do buy some ready-made things (like the Cheatin' Meat roast at Christmas, or Linda's Sausages), but really I get such joy from being able to make things from scratch. That sounds a bit dumb, but I'm always amazed when I make something (especially if I make it up as I go along) and it actually tastes good...I think I need some more faith in myself haha!
And, yeah, I shop at Tesco too (actually I split between Tesco and Aldi - I don't know if that's any better), do wish I could avoid it but cash is limited so one has to take that into account.
Anyway, I don't know if that added much to the conversation haha I'll shush and watch this programme about books.

Bonnie said...

Here here, well done that girl! I agree.

Mrs Bent said...

I love Orla Kiely and I am sure that the containers are not just jars but an essential design feature ;)

Denise said...

We try to cook more from scratch for quite awhile. I noticed with my fibro that processed foods too often make my flares worse.

Big supermarkets aren't going to make the processed crap any better quality not because of the trouble but because of the profit margin.

Pumpkin bread, soup, muffins, and cookies are all good. Pumpkin cheesecake if your real ambitious. I have a recipe I did for partner posted last November on my blog.

As promised, I posted the corners of the quilt. Only one still or back into my possession.

Kezz said...

Another hear hear! or Here here!? I'm not sure which one is correct, so have both.

I especially love that you spotted Sauron. It's a good job I wasn't drinking anything while reading this.

Marushka C. said...

You have almost convinced me, Susie... but I'll need a truly excellent and foolproof scone recipe before I can commit to such a revolutionary approach.

Mumma Troll said...

Well Susie, I love my veg box and it's all your fault as I had never given it a moments consideration before I read your posts. I love cooking with it too. I feel you do need to be chastised in some way though, so by the end of the day I want 100 lines of 'I must practise what I preach, precious' and as you write each one you have to say it in the style of Golem,

Mrs Bent said...

Can I ask which veg box schemes you use, i'd love to try one but never know which to use

Susie said...

Yes! I use Cambridge Organic Food Company ( and they are great (but only if you live near Cambridge). I also used to use Abel and Cole and I would recommend them too, also, their big advantage is they have lots of other stuff you can order with your box, like fish & milk. I just prefer having a smaller more local scheme (because I am dead hardcore).

LOL @ everyone. Marushka, I will try and find a good scone recipe (I have been making cheese scones for a while so sweet ones will be a nice change) but, is what you call a scone what I call a scone do you think? Or is it like an American Biscuit, terrifyingly different?

Gingerbread Lady, I love retro 70s so much I once made my ex-organisation move into an office which hadn't been changed for years and looked like Austin Powers. I wish I still had photographs! It was so beautiful! It had mirrored pillars, cork walls, and glass bricks. I made them paint it olive green. I loved it so much, it made dealing with all the mad court cases and grievances slightly better :-).